Streamlined oligarchy


MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Dmitry Shusharin) - The routine endorsement of the new State Duma did not make first-page news.

Some 114 people passed their mandates on. Everything went as expected and was kept as impersonal as can be. But it is this procedural formality that describes the Russian political system best.

To use a Soviet-era term, United Russia has the biggest number of "refuseniks" - 101 people. In this case, these are elected deputies who have refused to work in the Duma. The "locomotive" (this is now an established term) consisted of 65 governors, four ministers, 10 first deputy governors and heads of regional governments, 12 speakers of legislative assemblies and 26 mayors. Their names were at the top of election lists.

Only seven people have dodged work in the Duma from the Just Russia party, including Speaker Sergei Mironov, actor Valery Zolotukhin, Mayor Viktor Tarkhov and minister Alexander Sokolov.

The number of refuseniks in the ruling party has more than tripled since the 2003 elections, when only 31 victors renounced their mandates. This is indicative: In four years, United Russia has become more homogeneous.

This means those who the voters have elected to the Duma will not work in it and will be replaced by those who have received no votes. United Russia has 315 mandates, so one third of the deputies, that have personified the ruling party for the voters, have refused to work in parliament. Russian parliamentary history has not seen such betrayal of trust.

But the words "betrayal of trust," "people's choice," and "representation" are all rooted in the 1990s, when they still had their meaning. Defying the words of the current Speaker, in those years, the State Duma was a parliament, a venue for political debates.

Now in Russia we have an imitation or "sovereign" democracy, to use the official term. We did not have it even in the U.S.S.R., although it is inspired by the Soviet times. The position of a deputy in the Soviets (councils) of different levels was not fictitious. If a boss was elected, he could not possibly refuse to work. Soviet deputies were not professionals, but each nomenclature level had its own Soviet (from regional to federal ones), and academics, generals and people's artists had to talk to the voters, although sometimes these meetings were a sheer formality.

Now the governors will return to their regions (with the exception of the governor from the Yaroslavl Region), and it will transpire that the voters have nothing to do with the formation of the Duma's most powerful parliamentary party.

This is a mechanism of the elite reproduction under an imitation democracy. It also simulates the delimitation of the terms of reference. De facto, the deputy corps is being renewed not through ritual elections but as a result of a pre-selection by a political anonym.

It is rumored that the names of big businessmen, that is, relatively independent people who can be controlled only to a point, have been deleted from the lists of both ruling parties on instructions from the very top. Be it as it may, but the principles of forming the parliament and the deputy corps have been tailored to the system which has established itself in Russia in the last eight years. This is the rule of a streamlined oligarchy. What we had in the much-cursed 1990s were embryo oligarchs. They only controlled the media, and Russia had such a luxury as real elections, real political parties and politicians who were bright personalities.

The current oligarchs have come a long way. Now they are controlling all branches of power, including a considerable portion of the fourth power, the media. But they will not bother to spend money on what was a must even in the Soviet times - imitation of peoples' representation and feedback. The deputy corps are impersonal executors of the will of the top oligarchy, which has been formed along the lines of fellowship and departmental affiliation.

Some people are calling these oligarchs "the national elite," but they are very wrong. Equally wrong are those who talk about the all-powerful bureaucracy. The elites take years to form and they are renewed not only at their own will. Bureaucracy implies rational management of the state - it is not meant for settling one's own affairs at the state's expense.

It is time to devise a special political language to describe Russia's current, absolutely unique political system.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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